Automating Blinds | TiltMyBlinds RollerTrol eRod DIY
There are lots of ways to automate your blinds and stay within a budget. Calling a local automation PRO will cost you, and you should have a general understanding of what is available before writing a blank cheque. The major decision when deciding about blind automation is the type of blinds you want to automate. Automating Venetian blinds will be a lot less expensive than roller blinds (as there is a smaller motor required and a smaller battery and solar panel will be needed).
Notes: To automate your blinds you will need:
- A motor
- A power supply or solar panel with a battery
- A communication device to your automation system (Z-Wave, Zigbee, Bluetooth, Radio, IR) OR a built in board to control the timing of the operations.
- A wall controller is ideal as you’d want the ability to open and close blinds locally without a scene.
The ones that we have considered are:
Roller Blind Solutions
While Kickstarter made this product what it is today, it is more than one of the best all around solutions for the price if it stays the current price. For just $599 you can get 8 tilt blinds, 8 solar panels, 3 wall switches and two TV tilts.
- Good price per unit if you get the discount for all the blinds ($75/window for full automation with integration into your own hub is outstanding).
- Great usage of BLE as it’s low power allows the battery to stay small and prevent the need for hard wiring.
- Completely hidden in track
- Retrofits most units
- Will have Android and iOS
- Needs a BLE device to keep a connection to it
- Limited to Venetians
For more information visit here
I personally wouldn’t go this route as I haven’t played with raspberry Pi’s enough to warrant the price difference between the other ‘TiltMyBlinds’ solution. He does give a very detailed summary of how to do it and also which parts to buy so if you are technically savvy and know to code you may want to save a few dollars and try this. The advantage with this route is that you have a RESTful API (sorta) to use and even a graphical interface. Watch the video to see how he does it.
This was another solution that I saw recently and again, it’s REALLY cheap for a certain solution like having a very small venetian blind that you need to change upon getting dark/light outside (kitchen blinds?) Using something like the Bean for this might be an ideal application (Servo application).
1. RollerTrol Roller Blinds
With all RollerTrol products you can get a USB Transceiver ($159 USD) that can then be used to integrate with your own automation system.
- DIY Kits:
- Basic Window Blind with Built-In Battery: $199+tax+ship: This is a great way to add control to your roller blinds and use a optional solar panel to avoid the installation of wiring. Always pay close attention to the pounds lift. This model does 10lb.
- Basic Window Blind: You may also want a lightweight model for smaller windows. This can get the job done for most windows and is a decent deal. This doesn’t come with the built-in battery and is only a 6lb lift.
- Radio + Blind motor + Battery: This solution requires no wiring as it has everything you may want and you could start with this and add a solar panel when the funds come available. The battery lasts 4-6 months.
2. Add-A-Motor D80 + Z-Wave Power Supply
The video above shows the Model 2000 which is meant for very large openings and is usually around $500. The model D80 would be meant for smaller jobs and can do a lot.
This is probably the easiest installation possible. Run the cord through the blinds chain and then plug it in.
Z-Wave Motor for Automation
The reason we choose to include a Z-Wave Power Supply is you can then have scenes to control how long the motor needs to run to create the scene. With this option you’ll need to create a virtual device that knows what level the blinds are at. Having the power turned on for a certain amount of time and then shutting it off would produce a certain ‘level’ of blind opening or closing.
How it Works
The way this Add-A-Motor works is everytime you apply power and remove it it goes the other way. I would start with the full open and full close first and then cut the time in half for 50%.
Somfy with Control4
Control4 is a great system, it’s done by professionals but as with anything done by professionals, it’s expensive. You pay for a solution that you could do yourself fairly easily by watching a few youtube videos. This system uses a lot of hardware and custom programming to make it happen. I would stay away from something like this as other solutions above can be done for much less.
eRod Motorized Drapes
This solution provides an easy installation method and you can use almost any type of drapes that you could want. This would be ideal for doors and big windows. The downside with this method is that I don’t see an option for z-wave or zigbee. You would need to find out the HEX codes and then program it into an app like Smart Remote (for android) on a mounted tablet and then use that as your controller instead of the provided remote. For more info on this method you can see here.
Other Sources like eBay
There are lots of other places to check for other alternatives. Searching Ebay for motor drapes, motor blinds, blind motor can yeild cheap products which do the same thing.
A lot of the cheaper products use cheap motors that can break down. You could end up spending twice what a more expensive motor cost in the first place if you don’t pick the right product for your application. Ie. Lets say you have roller blinds that need 12lb pull for each action and you select a 12lb lift motor. It may lift it for a while but then it will break down as the motor is running at 100% torque. Cheap plastic parts can break easily. Check youtube and amazon for reviews of whatever you intend to purchase.
Venetians: While the TiltMyBlinds solution isn’t available yet, it yields the most promising solution that you dont have to DIY and yet doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Picking a solution that doesn’t need wiring is ideal and you will be thankful on your electricity bill.
Roller Blinds:We like the solution by RollerTrol as they have been around a while and have yielded good reviews.
Drapes: Besides eRod and eBay, Add-A-Motor can work for light jobs and is fairly inexpensive.
If you’re starting from scratch with a window and are wondering what to do with a limited budget I would go with the TiltMyBlinds solution. While they don’t have a track record, the idea of it with the flexibility and solar solution makes this very attractive.
If you have other solutions please let us know in our forum
We want to know about them and how to automate it into an automation hub.
- Published in Blinds, Product Reviews
Multiroom Audio Compared | Sonos Airfoil MultiRoom Amp
There are several ways to automate your music at home. There are several purposes for this:
- You wake up in the morning and want the local radio station to play while you’re getting ready.
- You want weather news/radio while getting dressed.
- You want new spotify workout music play when you enter the gym at 730pm
- You want the music to lower volume (or turn off) when your wife enters the room.
- You want a scene for a dance party to play all over your house.
- You only want your living room and basement playing music.
There are many options to do it. They are:
- Control4, Crestron
- Multi-room Receiver with amps built-in
- XBMC and Airplay
- Bluetooth Receivers to Speakers
Each provide unique advantages and ease of use along with different levels of quality. It goes without saying that using WiFi to sync audio around your house is pretty much a bad idea. WiFi can be spotty at times, routers can get slow and things aren’t reliable. Always aim for a wired solution.
Option 1: Sonos with their speakers
For comparison of all the products we will use an example of 6 rooms.
You need: 1 Sonos Bridge and 6 ZonePlayers like the Play:1 (At least) I would have at least 1-3 speaker per room. The Sonos system also lets you add more than one in a room for stereo sound.
Calculation: (219 (speakers) X6 +50 (bridge))=$1364 (depending on source)
- Sonos is the easy way. Plug them in and download the app and begin.
- You can easily integrate Sonos with most automation systems very easily.
- They have several options for integrating your system with the major hubs. There are plugins available.
- This one works well with Tasker: Macronos for Sonos
- Easy to plug into Connect, Play:5 and Connect AMP to listen to another source
- A lot more expensive than Airfoil, Moxivo and on par with some Multiroom (craigslist) amp solutions
- Can’t be in the wall (not a clean install)
- Not really easy to expand VS using a CPU with airfoil or XMBC to locally play video files to the same speakers
Option 2: Control4 and Crestron
These solutions are by far the most expensive and are very hard to really compare to these others. A 6 room system will definitely cost you $XXXX.00. You will not have to think about the technical aspects of it. You get get a Rep to come in and do it for you.
- It gets done for you.
- The sound is great and integrated perfectly the way YOU want it right from the install.
- If you have a problem you call someone in to fix it (also a disadvantage).
- The huge downside to this is integration with other products you want to add to your system you can’t unless you get one of their reps to do it.
- The three people I know with these systems are extremely happy with the results but they all don’t want to call a rep back in for extra work. This is for the automator with cash.
- From my knowledge there is no GET API to integrate third party products. To me this is a deal breaker but I already thought that by the price.
Airfoil | A great AirPlay app for every platform
What is it?
Airfoil is an app you can install on your PC or Mac and have it transmit any audio source from your PC to any AirPlay or Airfoil Speakers. You can install Airfoil speakers on almost every platform. Therefore you can have an instant multiroom audio setup almost instantly if you have tablets, phones and PC’s already in each room.
- This is where it gets tricky. You need a license for your Windows and Macs. Once you purchase those you can download the free airfoil speakers apps and begin.
- Approximately 50-80 dollars in apps/licenses + Your cost in purchasing other tablets, PC’s etc.
- Depending on the type of AirPlay device there is latency time that can make or break the audio experience. Using Airfoil and Airfoil Speakers keeps that in check.
- Great support
- Very easy
- Easy to select different sources on the PC (spotify)
- Has an API to create scene based selectors for certain airplay devices
- Can also then send audio TO any speaker easily using an iPhone since they are all airplay speakers.
- If you could hardwire all your PC’s and MAC’s to and use Airfoil Speakers then it could be slick.
- If you have a busy wifi network and are using wifi only with this you will not be happy
- Different AirPlay speakers have different timing to output and you can hear it
Option 4: Moxivo | MultiRoom Audio through your Phone System
What is it?
It’s a cable to use your regular old school phone jack as an audio network throughout your house. You plug your source into the wall using the RCA or HEADPHONE to rj-45 and then plug in any powered speakers throughout the house anywhere there is a phone plug. Most houses have them in everyroom which makes this a really easy solution.
How would we make this smart?
Logitech computer speakers once plugged and powered on (with the button) in will stay on as long as there is power. The goal would be to power off the speaker that you are not using a AC Z-wave Switch. That way you could easily create scenes which control the rooms just by turning power on and off to each ‘speaker’.
Cost of 6 rooms
- 7 cables (40 bucks)
- CPU (you probably have one that you already control your music with)
- Logitech speakers (30 each on craigslist for decent 2.1 sound)
- Z-Wave AC 6 pack (100)
- Total: $320
- Using already there phone system
- Easy to create audio scenes as you just control the power to the speakers in your automation hub
- Use your existing app to control the CPU music
- You could get premium speakers and also double up them for other uses in each room.
- No automatic control of audio sound level as you have to manually change it by the physical dial in each room. It’s either ON or OFF.
- If there is noise on your phone line network it’s going to come through on your speakers.
- Not digital sound straight to the speakers (digital to analog).
Option 5: Multi-Room Amplifiers with 6 zones and Remote Control of them
A sample can be found on craigslist to control 6 zones. This one is $800 and then you’ll need to buy speakers. Since you do not need an amplifier you can just get any speakers you want to use and thus the sound will be of much higher quality and also has the potential to be a cleaner finish than say having stereos (with amps everywhere). MonoPrice.com in ceiling speakers can run around $50 each for the pair so you’re looking at $300+800+60(for cable)=$1160.
- Potential to have the best sound VS the Sonos, Airfoil and Moxivo
- Cleaner in-wall finish if you choose to go this route
- There are more expensive models but this one is a reasonable solution.
- New builds should go this route
- Can be controlled with an app, or IR tablet
- More expensive
- Need to run the speaker cable everywhere where you want speakers from the source.
- Not really a retrofit solution.
Option 6: XBMC/KODI with Airplay
XBMC (Or Kodi) is an amazing open sourced media solution. It allows you to share the same media source throughout the home. It also has an Airplay feature so you can turn any XBMC server into a speaker that can be selected.
The cost is all in the devices that you choose to run XBMC and if they have speakers you’ll need to get some.
- 6 XBMC Amazon FireTV‘s will cost 600. These will get you six locations around your home that you can then run a screen on and have a sound bar to.
- Can have one shared server with a shared database to combine your audio and video solution. It will be seamless and it’s what I use for my video.
- Your audio should be synced properly as long as all your devices are wired to a decent router.
- Easy to setup the Airplay solution.
- Can then stream any source form an iOS device to any room. Could also use the video option this way.
- This is my favourite solution since Tasker can be added to android boxes making this very easy to control.
- Might be expensive if you have to purchase 6 screens, 6 sound bars along with 6 android boxes
Option 7: Bluetooth Speakers
This option is very flexible and can retrofit any situation into a multiroom setup. The basics are as follows:
- Add Bluetooth receivers or Bluetooth speakers around where you want to have music
- Pair them to your audio source (will need Bluetooth) and then select where you want the music to play
- Retrofit any situation
- Moving around speakers is easy
- Doesn’t need a complicated API
- Could easily integrate with Tasker to turn the bluetooth connection on at any moment
- You could use a Bluetooth receiver and then plug in a more expensive audio system.
- Most Bluetooth speakers don’t usually have good bass
- Could not sync properly with all your rooms. You are at the mercy of the devices Bluetooth transfer rate and timing.
There are a lot of options and I probably missed a few but those are the majority of the decently priced options. There are always more expensive options with the multiroom receivers but based on the above my current solution is a combination of XBMC and AirFoil. I need the ability to display any video in any room and having a screen in each room with a media center there is easy to interact with using all the apps Android has. Airfoil gives me the ability to use iTunes as my server app and I can use AirFoil and scripts to select speakers when I walk into rooms (using iBeacons). I have a friend who uses the amp route and his sounds far better than my current Airfoil setup. It comes down to what your situation is and thinking about what you want to do with it. If you are looking to extend into one or two extra rooms you might want to go with the bluetooth option and see if that works for you.
Either way, let us know what you think in our forums below and if you think there is a better solution. Don’t forget to signup for our newsletter and Facebook page to get the latest updates and deals.[bbp-single-topic id=3920]
- Published in Audio